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failure to live up to our ideals through our presidents in the beginning because all the notions of the founders and the declaration of independence and equality and the rights of people really i, didn't apply to african-americans. this is what the first presidents did. for a
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while. there was a law where the slaves would be freed automatically after six months living in pennsylvania. he understood this and he didn't want his slaves to know the law or to talk about so he shuttled his slaves from the capitol, the temporary capitol in philadelphia back to his plantation in mount vernon as a subterfuge so they wouldn't fall within this six-month window and when slaves escaped there was a famous slave who was very close to washington and his wife. she did escape, valued her freedom much more than the president and the first lady and he sent someone out to catch her. she ended up living in new hampshire but he went to those great lengths and a lot of early presidents didn't understand the desire for freedom was so strong among the african-americans around them they felt it was an act of disloyalty for a slave to escape. we can't understand that today but that's the way the early
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presidents felt. >> host: these presidents who had been signers of declaration of independence, who valued their freedom over the british more than any loyalty to their homeland could not understand what caused african-american people to escape enslavement? >> guest: yeah, it's a fundamental contradiction. and, you know, a lot of people say -- these are people of their times, these presidents were creatures of their times but we do expect our leaders to transcend the times and our early presidents did not. >> host: john adams fascinates me. abigail adams, of course, exhorted him not to forget the women or enslaved people and he really talked in their correspondence which you go a little bit but lots of folks talk about their correspondence about having the union or having enslavement. >> guest: right. >> host: there was a choice to be made that we would have to pay for as a nation much later. >> guest: yes, and they
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understood that and adams was from massachusetts. he was not a slave owner and opposed slavery. his wife was more than an abolitionist than he was and you could see that in the correspondence as you mentioned. and she felt that slavery was not only wrong for the country but it was a sin. but her husband would never do anything about it politically again 'cause fear of the southern states. the fear of that -- that he would have a secession on his hands and, of course, that is what happened later under lincoln. but there's always been this fear for many years in the united states that the south, if it was forced to accept the end of slavery and later desegregation and equality would cause problems for a president's agenda if that agenda was not supported in the south to begin with. the race issues would complicate
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for presidents and they let it go, unfortunately. >> host: to this day nobody will let it go. when you look at contemporary presidents, our democratic presidents, carter, clinton have come from the south and while both of them were seen to be at least somewhat progressive i was intrigued by your comment that thurgood marshall made about jimmy carter. >> guest: right. >> host: he said president jimmy carter, your heart is in the about right place and that's about all. >> guest: it's interesting that a southern presidents recently, president carter, president clinton, the father was a father from texas although his roots were in maine and up north and president bush the son lived in texas for a long time but the presidents from the south had experienced directly with african-americans around them. which a lot of the northern presidents did not. i mean, lyndon johnson had lots
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of experience with african-americans around them. and the presidents from the north are considered like iconic presidents like president kennedy who had no experience with african-americans his whole life. was not after he was interested rather late in his president in 1963 where he started to take notice of this tremendous bubbling up of the civil rights movement, you know, by the protesters in the streets. and being a world war ii veteran, he was very much admiring of physical courage and he saw the physical courage of the demonstrators and this impressed him a great deal and by the time his presidency he was assassinated he was a much different kind of president dealing with civil rights than he was initially but, of course, that was cut short. >> host: you know, one of the things that so intrigued me about your book was the bibliography. you had to have a great time looking at all these folks who
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wrote about their time in the white house, many in the back stairs of the white house and lots of african-americans who worked for presidents. >> guest: right. >> host: who then wrote books. talk about some of those books and some of those findings. >> guest: you're right. that was a fascinating point of this. one thing i wanted to mention also is give credit where credit is due to the african-american newspapers who had wonderful coverage of presidents but much different from what the mainstream or white press or so there were some wonderful stories there. investigative stories on franklin roosevelt's home in warm springs, georgia. and how he was treating the black and white staff differently with salaries and the jobs that they were doing. a lot of great work was done by the african-american press that i want to give credit to. as far as the people in the white house, there are diaries and interviews and books that you have mentioned there was a slave paul jennings who wrote
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about his experiences in the white house and wrote a book about it that was very interesting. there was a couple of people who worked for president lincoln who actually gave interviews in a limited way at the time but are very fascinating and i think the more we know about them the more insights we get into president lincoln. there was a seamtress named elizabeth kekly who was close to the lincolns and a valet -- we don't know a great deal about him but lincoln trusted william slade so much as a man who was close to public opinion. more than lincoln's advisors and so he would actually run his speeches by william slade. he ran the gettysburg address by him. he took him up to gettysburg with him and they spent the night before the event going over the speech and lincoln basically gave the speech to william slade and got feedback. and it's very interesting that
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this is an african-american, a former slave, who the president valued so much because he felt -- because the president felt he understood the country so well and if it made sense and resonated with william slade, lincoln felt it would resonate with every day americans and it was a very fascinating relationship so that's the kind of thing you could pick up. >> host: let's talk a little bit about elizabeth kekly who was a seamstress as you mentioned. she emancipated herself. she self-emancipated. she felt so strongly about the rules of the game that she actually insisted on paying for herself as opposed to running away. she supported the white family that owned her. they had fallen on hard times in her own words, her owner was dissipated and so she in her words and her diaries -- that she was supporting 17 people in st. louis with her skill. >> guest: right.
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>> host: some of her patrons and she herself put together the $1200 that she needed self-emancipate and to purchase her son and she became mary todd lincoln's seamstress but they fell out when she wrote her book. they had a very close relationship and they fell out when she wrote a book. >> guest: that sometimes happens when people write these insider books. elizabeth kekly became so close to the lincolns that -- where she had lost a son in the civil war, the lincolns lost their son willie to a disease while they were in the white house. and since they both lost sons, elizabeth kekly and mary todd lincoln had this bond. and it was very close. and lincoln -- mary todd lincoln would take elizabeth kekly would take her on trips around the country and, of course, being a seamstress, it helped because mary todd lincoln was a real clothes horse and she loved to
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buy clothes wherever she went and sometimes exceeding the budget that she was supposed to hold to. another interesting thing i found that mary todd lincoln was such -- trusted elizabeth kekly so much that she would confide her, her assessment and blunt and candid of her husband's cabinet, his generals, very much down on general grant. mary todd felt he was a butcher because of the battles he got his soldiers in. and then as time went on, as you say, elizabeth kekly wrote about her experiences and it was seen as a breach by mary todd lincoln of confidences and it gives a insight of the white house and that was mary todd felt something wasn't elizabeth kekly shouldn't have done. >> host: the book that she wrote was probably one of the few ways she had of generating some income after she became older and couldn't work as a
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seamstress. >> guest: right. >> host: again, just kind of your thoughts. >> guest: that's true. lots of times or first lady feels there's been some breach of protocol or trust that they don't understand like what you just mentioned, the idea of someone needing to publish the book for support or so on. a similar thing happened by the way with jackie kennedy. there was a woman who worked in the white house named lillian rogers parks. >> host: yes. >> guest: who wrote two books essentially by the roosevelts and she worked at the white house a seamstress and a maid. her mom had worked there before her so she had wonderful stories spanning a number of presidents. she did write two books and jackie kennedy had the staff sign waivers that they would not write -- promise they would not write books about the kennedy presidency. the person who distributed the promises did not sign it herself and she ended up writing a book, but it just shows this dynamic
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once a staffer writes a book the first ladies and presidents tend to be wondering if they're talking out of school and what could be said about them. >> host: did race complicate at all, did they react if these staffers had been caucasian? >> guest: i think it must have complicated things. i think the lincolns had their own problems with racial issues even though he's sort of as the great emancipator. they weren't, you know, great in their personal lives, you know, advocates of abolition, for instance, until late in the game, until the civil war got going. lincoln never was an advocate of equality. he was always thought that there should be some system created so that african-americans and freed slaves could be -- find another country that they would go to. >> host: yes. >> guest: so he was talking about them living in the united states -- and there was a famous case where he actually met with
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a delegation of african-american leaders who actually organized a trip 3 and 400 miles away in haiti to set up a country there. it didn't work. a third of them died and they came back. but lincoln fully embraced this idea and encouraged these folks to do it. so he was not -- he wasn't favor of social equality but of abolition. >> host: was president lincoln was the first to invite to the white house as delegates. i know he met with harriet tubman and frederick douglass. did he have any african-americans in the white house to sit down with? >> guest: no. and lincoln had sojourner truth in the white house another abolitionist. but he was -- he was trying to show that african-americans if given the right opportunities could achieve and succeed and be
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important advisors to him particularly on the social issues he was dealing with and to some extent with the military issues with frederick douglass with the use of african-american soldiers and that sort of thing but he was really a ground breaker in that way and was actually quite public about it. the other thing that's interesting that struck me about lincoln how the african-americans around him affected his policies and his attitudes. people might not realize that lincoln for about a quarter of his presidency lived at the place called the soldiers home which was a home for convalescing soldiers from the civil war about 3 miles away from the white house and he commuted to the white house from there. during that trip he would often stop at what they would call contraband camps, camps for freed african-americans who were living in the washington area. and they would make a big effort to impress lincoln. they would dress in their finest clothes. the men often wearing civil war
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uniforms both the gray and the blue they had gotten from battlefields and they would line up and sing spirituals and entertain him with these spirituals and he was so moved to tears often that a lot of the people often thought that this deepened his commitment to abolition and to emancipation. just being in the presence of the african-americans who had been slaves and talking to them but especially what became sort of quasi religious ceremonies that he was the center of. and he was, of course, sort of a semi religious figure among many freed slaves in those days. >> host: what strikes me when you go through all the presidents and, of course, you mentioned them all is isolation. you have a lincoln and you have an andrew johnson who were pretty much indifferent. to the flight of people of african descent. >> guest: yes. >> host: pretty -- the other is a class-based oscillation
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because you had people who were in the white house who served several presidents. >> guest: right. >> host: so they could actually observe how people behaved toward people. >> guest: yes. >> host: were they on time? were they messy? were they neat? were they respectful? let's talk about johnson for a minute. >> guest: well, johnson, of course, succeeded lincoln. he was lincoln's vice president after lincoln was assassinated. he was from tennessee. he was -- he had been a slave owner himself. he was not particularly interested in the issue of slavery, but wanted to preserve the union. made that distinction but after lincoln died, a lot of historians feel that johnson actually set the course of our racial progress back for generations because he failed to act and follow through on some of the lincoln's initiatives but also he, of course, agreed to pull soldiers -- union soldiers out of the south and also sort of gave up on this -- the
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radical republican reconstruction effort and was much more sympathetic to the south. so he really set back the effort a lot. he could have done a lot more and you see that in some of our presidents, figures who could have made a big difference. i mean, washington is actually one of those cases because he had such a paramount position in the country, if he had tried to take on some of these institutional obstacles to emancipation, he perhaps could have done that. another interesting thing about andrew johnson, robert e. lee, the famous southern general, said that he was surprised that johnson didn't push harder for a free equality with the freed slaves because lee felt that the south would have understood. while we lost the war -- >> host: they don't understand that yet. >> guest: this is what robert e. lee thought. and that showed. there is still that dynamic there but johnson was afraid that the southern states would cause him a lot of problems with his other programs and, of course, he had a lot of problems
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with impeachment. he was impeached himself so there was a whole other dynamic with him but the fear what the south might do has been very common in our history right from the beginning. >> host: one of the presidents that surprised me not surprised you know the history is, of course, woodrow wilson. he was an intellectual. he had been the president of princeton university. but one would have thought he would have had good sense but his reaction to race was almost unpredictable. and very, very harsh coming after a president who had entertained booker t. washington, here comes this intellectual who literally is rigid. how do you explain that? >> guest: well, woodrow wilson's roots were in virginia in the south. he had been the governor of new jersey and the president of princeton but he was -- thought of himself as a virginia gentleman in the context of those times. and was never really interested in equality. when he was elected there was high hopes for him in the african-american community that
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he would do some things differently. but he didn't. he sort of was swayed by some of the cabinet members around him and he actually resegregated washington in the government and so on. and even though again this fundamental contradiction of our ideals and his ideals he was the guy who talked about, you know, equality among nations and about these freedoms around the world that he was trying to promote after world war i. and yet at home he just didn't see that that was a tremendous hypocrisy and contradiction to what he was trying to do around the world. trying to protect small nations a minority of nations. he just didn't understand these things. and this segregation of washington is really a blot on his record that i think even the -- even the people who appreciate what wilson did in other ways have to recognize. >> host: he became very ill. in fact, it was rumored that his wife was really running the
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government. those african-americans in the white house were loyal especially to those attitudes. as you research that period he was nearly incapacitated? >> guest: he was and some of them privately including lillian rogers parks who we talked about earlier, the seamstress who wrote these books about the white house -- her mom was there. they felt privately that wilson should not have been staying on as president. that mrs. wilson was doing too much but basically he really wasn't up to the job and they were hiding his true condition from the country. and over the years, it's very interesting that the household staff, african-american and white, were very keen observers and they gave some fascinating pictures of what these presidents were like behind the scenes which is another thing i was trying to get at in the book. i just want to fast forward a little bit to herbert hoover. i think people might be surprised to learn hoover wanted to be -- have some private moments when he was president
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and he didn't want the staff to see him and he didn't want to see them. so he would insist that when they heard his footsteps and heard him coming they would hide from him no matter what they were doing and there were cases where the staff would tell stories about -- the president's coming. they'd open a closet door to hide from him and there would be somebody in there with a tray of glasses. there were people with linens just hiding from the president. and -- but that's the way he wanted it. when harry truman took over, his reaction -- another insight into the man was, why are these people peeping at me from behind the bushes. what's that all about? [laughter] >> guest: just have them go about the business and then the system started to go back when eisenhower took over but his reaction was again typical of eisenhower. he said why doesn't anybody do any work around here? how come i never see anybody working? well, the point was they were trying to sort of hide from the president and he said, well, i want people to go about their business. but it's an interesting insight
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into -- >> host: the oslati -- oscilla of how people were accustomed to doing it. one of the interesting anecdotes on harry truman the relationship he had with adam clayton powell. there's so many stories about truman's loyalty to his family when his daughter did a concert and got panned from one of the washington papers he wrote back a letter saying how angry he was but when adam clayton powell took on bess truman, harry truman just cut him off. >> guest: well, adam clayton powell, of course, was a very famous congressman from harlem, a very powerful figure in congress because of his longevity there. but truman -- initially was sort of ambivalent about powell but then there was a case as you say there was an incident where powell's wife felt shunned and
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snubbed by the white house and it was blamed within the powell family on bess truman. so then powell made a public comment that bess truman should not be seen as the first lady but the last lady. then harry was furious. as you say, whenever it was his own family he would overreact or he just couldn't really contain himself. and then he kept powell at a distance. didn't invite him to social events for the rest of his presidency but it's that notion, as you say, that oscillation but some of the other presidents were more willing to do that especially as we get to more recent times. >> host: you know, franklin roosevelt gets a lot of credit because of the new deal and so many other things. one of my favorite stories -- you don't have it in the book but i have to share because you'll get a kick of it. when mary mccloud was a close intimate of eleanor roosevelt once was visiting the white house, one of the white house security guards referred of her aunties which one of my sister's
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children are you. that was mary mccloud bassoon but eleanor roosevelt gets a lot of credit for being liberal and for being a civil rights orders that had to do with civil rights orders often only when forced but he wasn't quite -- he didn't quite live up to his outside p.r. >> guest: he didn't. eleanor did publicly and privately did push very aggressively on civil rights issues and sometimes to the point where her husband kept saying, well, that's enough, you know, i've heard enough. if i keep pushing in this direction i'm going to alienate that familiar pattern of the southern states and they won't accept the rest of the new deal. but privately roosevelt was in this period of trusting his african-american staff very much. roosevelt was paralyzed. his legs were paralyzed from polio. he had been paralyzed because of
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polio in at the age of 39. he was afraid of fire having fire in his room and couldn't escape because of the fire and when he was in the white house and they were concerned about enemy attacks and they launched a project which they called crawling exercises. the president in order to escape would have to practice getting to a window from his bedroom or from a private residence part of the residence. and he would get down on the floor and here's the president of the united states and pull himself with his arms to the window and the secret service would put chutes out there so he could slide down and escape and the only person he entrusted with the knowledge of this and entrusted to help him with these crawling exercises was a valet, an african-american valet named irvin mcduffy and he was very well trusted by the roosevelt family and i always thought how remarkable that is that he didn't really want his family to see him in this situation. he didn't really entrust some of
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his other close advisors but he trusted irvin mcduffy so much that not only he would help but he would not talk about it, which is a very important part of being a worker at the white house. >> host: roosevelt's racial attitudes. he had a kitchen cabinet of african-americans who especially with the war effort. he paid attention to a. philip randolph. >> guest: he did. >> host: and issued the executive order after there was a threat of a threat of washington during world war ii. but he didn't bond with any of them. >> guest: i don't think so. the steps he took he had to be pressured into doing. the threat of a demonstration or something of that kind. so, you know, he was not, again, a paragon of -- in his policies on racial issues. some steps he took. but and eleanor was always pushing for more. she wanted -- she did manage to persuade him to have the armed
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forces provide recreation facilities for african-american soldiers but he never, for instance, took on the issue of having african-americans fight in combat units or the integration of the service until very late. it was harry truman who actually did that. >> host: let's fast forward and we can talk history but it's fascinating you interviewed president barack obama how many times? >> guest: i interviewed him four times, once exclusively for the book. >> host: the obama presidency is partly inspiration for this book, obviously. >> guest: yes. >> host: and which is exciting. we're all excited to have the first african-american president in the white house but you talk not only about the presidency but also about some of the disappointments that have come after the two years in office, the tea party folk. >> guest: yes. >> host: now, president obama has worked very hard not to be seen as a black president. >> guest: right.
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>> host: share some of your conversations with him around that issue? >> guest: well, i did ask him about this directly. and some of his advisors both african-american and others, about this. and he's very clear that he doesn't think we're in what some people call a post-racial america. the race issue does come up regularly. he sometimes addresses it most of the time he prefers not to because what he's trying to do, as he told me and as his advisors said, he's trying to run a racial-neutral administration. he wants to be thought of as the president, not the black president or the first black president. he and some of his advisors make an interesting historical case that when president kennedy was campaigning, he was widely -- was widely perceived that his catholicism would be a problem, the first catholic president. when he took office, that issue faded almost completely because so many other issues were crowding the agenda, you know, dealings with the soviet union, you know, the economy and so on. and so the catholic issue faded.
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so what the obama and his advisors are hoping is that as time goes on, the idea of pigeon holing him as the black president is going to fade. it still comes up as you said. there's a strain of anti-obama feeling and i would have to say a racial strain in the tea party movement. there's -- this issue comes up regularly in our public discourse. so but his concern and it's a political concern is that as he runs for re-election in 2012, he just can't be seen as the african-american president 'cause it might cost him the election by alienating white voters and others. but i think -- i asked specifically if he thinks if african-american agenda per se such as racial profiling, dealing with problems of the cities, african-american unemployment, which is -- which is about higher than 15% with the national average being 9, 9.5%, very high, is that
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appropriate? he said no. at this point, his overall policies are what's best for african-americans and he doesn't think he should adopt a specific agenda. he did argue that his health care law would benefit african-americans particularly. that his proposals on education to allow young people to go to school with federal help, more than they have in the past would help african-americans. but he said that's an agenda for everybody and not just for african-americans and that's -- i don't think we'll see any change in that. >> host: and that is a force of discontent among some african-americans, myself included, we have such a big unemployment gap, so many other things if it were appalachian who had a 15.8% unemployment rate which african-americans do, don't you think he may attention to those appalachians? >> guest: maybe so. i would say if he's re-elected, that might be -- that might change. there might be more of an
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african-american agenda he would develop in a second term. but i wouldn't expect it now and i think -- i mean, he seems to be drawing in some ways to this idea of seeing our economic problems more as class problems than racial problems. and i think you can make a case that some of that at least is true. but, you know, if you look -- there's new reports out about this not only the unemployment rate but sort of at the education, issues of crime and so on, there is -- there does appear to be a special need in the african-american community for some programs to deal with this sort of thing but president obama doesn't want to deal with it. i asked him, do you have a racial thought when you make decisions? he said no, i almost never think about the racial aspect of things because there's so many other things i got to think about. and there's so many other things that are so urgent. one other quick point about this he did point out i think rightly that he was faced with extraordinary crises when he
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took over. >> host: yeah. >> guest: as he and his staff would say initially, you know, one of these crisis might be par for the course but he was dealing with a financial meltdown. he was dealing with the problems with the auto industry. he was dealing with the unemployment rate. he was dealing with one thing after another. >> host: and two wars. >> guest: and two wars, exactly, iraq and afghanistan. and the velocity of the events and decisions just was so amazing, there really was no breather. and if you look back on it in that context, i mean, it really was a remarkable time for him to take over. and a lot of people asked me, what is it like to interview president obama? what is he like in person? well, he's very methodical. he's very disciplined. the qualities you see in public you see in private when you interview him. i've interviewed five presidents now. i've covered five presidents it's interesting that every other one of the other four there will be some chitchat. there will be a little sort of social moment there in the beginning.
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i walked into the oval office and president obama said, i've been thoroughly briefed, fire your questions away. and that was it. we went right to the issuing and that's the way he is. >> host: so no -- >> guest: how is your son, your daughter, no. and some people are a little taken aback by that because they think that maybe he should be a little bit more outgoing or friendly but he's not a back slappy kind of leader and i think people like the steadiness they see. >> host: you know, he has pledged as you said to be nonracial and race neutral president yet he got himself embroiled in a little mess and you write a little bit with the so-called beer summit when harvard professor gates was, of course, arrested by a cambridge policeman for invading his own home. >> guest: right. >> host: but in any case, the beer summit seemed to be a discordant note in the race neutrality. >> guest: right.
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>> host: talk about that. >> guest: that's interesting. as you say, that's exactly what happened. the incident in professor gates' home. when president obama addressed it, it was percolating as an issue but it wasn't really a huge national issue. but he was asked in the last -- the last question at a news conference, they always tell presidents and the press staff be careful of that last question and the last question was about this incident and president obama's reaction was that the cambridge police officer acted stupidly and this caused a big fuss. deny enough about that to make that judgment and so on? as the week went on, it became more and more of an issue. and partly -- largely, the president had entered the picture and it put a huge spotlight on it and by the end of the week he came into the briefing room maybe i was a little premature. maybe i didn't really know all the facts when i made that
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judgment, but, you know, he had dealt with this kind of treatment by police as a young black man himself he was basing it on his own experience. and then, of course, they had this beers -- what they call the beer summit, the media called the beer summit where professor gates and officer crowley met at the white house over beers with the president and the vice president and apparently they did have some other meetings later just the two of them and i saw a comment that professor gates said that they actually are friends now so it's interesting. >> host: where one gets one's friend from. the president that preceded obama was george w. bush and racially controversial for any number of reasons. one of the moments that sticks with me when the actor the artist kanye west says president bush doesn't care about black paper. wasn't his reaction to hurricane katrina a little race incentive?
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>> guest: looking back on it, of course, he was in his home, his vacation home in crawford, texas. they didn't leave immediately to preside over the recovery efforts. there's a famous picture in air force one looking out the window to 10,000 feet away from the problems. didn't really understand, it appears, how desperate people were in new orleans. the scenes the rest of the country seeing people needing food and water and thousands and thousands of people piled into the stadium. the president didn't seemed aware of. at a minimum the insensitivity was the problem. kanye west, of course, then went farther and said the president doesn't care about black people, i did ask president bush about this in an email exchange we had for the book. and as you say, he was very wounded by this and it's still something that's just under the surface with him. he felt that in his personal life he has never been accused
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of being a racist and he had been brought up in the segregated environments of texas around midland, but he did, as he pointed out to me, the other side of it, you know, again talking about this oscillation, the public policy, maybe public insensitive and private actions. he did point out that he did promote and name the two highest ranking african-americans in american history in condoleezza rice and colin powell as national security advisor for condi rice and then secretary of state and, of course, powell's secretary of state in the first term. and he says he isn't given a lot of credit for that. and that just shows that he's working on merit rather than a racial template to put over things. >> host: how do you think secretary rice and powell influenced president bush on domestic issues? their portfolio was of foreign
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policy, of course, but domestic issues were never seen quite as his forte? >> guest: no, that's true. i interviewed secretary powell for the book and he said that he did discuss some domestic issues with the -- he served ronald reagan, george bush, the father, george bush the son, he mentioned how in the case of the l.a. riots after the famous incident with rodney king, he did try to explain to president bush, the father, why so many people were upset in the african-american community about a traffic stop. and about this sort of thing and try to explain it as racial profiling but he felt there were some of the things of president bush didn't understand and he tried to stay out of domestic issues. if we fast forward -- condoleezza rice was very much an expert on foreign affairs and international relations but she was by her own comments and president bush's, the son,
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almost like a sister to president bush. she was very close to him. she accompanied him and his wife to camp david to their residence in crawford, was with them on lots of social occasions. so there was a real connection there. i think partly because president bush, first of all, she had worked for his dad, which he valued very much. and also during the campaign and since then, he became to think of her not only as an expert on foreign policy but also a very loyal person. that's part of that whole history we've been talking about with african-americans in the white house, loyal to the presidency and to him. and was really very -- entrusted her with a lot of things including their -- access to them as private people in social context, which president bush felt he didn't get really much credit for that either. >> host: well, why should he get
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credit for hanging out with his friends? >> guest: exactly. well, i think part of it is that insensitivity that's lingered with him through his whole presidency and the kanye west comments. that really stung him very much because he wasn't accustomed to that sort of criticism. and it's really a sore point with him still. >> host: one of the things you struck me you talked about bushes in the book when president bush, w., not h.w., came to the white house some of the same people who had served his dad were still there working as butlers, as maids, as cooks and other things like that. and so big bush said -- h.w. said when his son came back it was almost like having a reunion. >> guest: yes. >> host: and so son -- little bush must have felt at some level, you know, these were -- this was familiar territory for him. >> guest: right. well, it's interesting. a couple of quick points about that.
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when a new president takes over, of course, the house stays. it's not a turnover in the household staff. some people might not realize that they stay. >> host: right. >> guest: and when president clinton came into office after bush the elder president clinton, of course, was not accustomed to having servants or people on the household staff. he had never had that kind of -- had some of that in arkansas as governor but nothing like a wealthy american would have which the bushes were. so they didn't know how to deal with the household staff, hillary and bill clinton. and so they were wondering well, why are these staffers here at night? are they spying on us? what's this all about. and they didn't know they had duties. >> host: if they thought they were spying, things might have turned out differently, right? >> guest: i think looking back on it, you know, you could see people not accustomed to having staff at your elbow or wondering, will i ever have any time to myself and i think that was the nature of it. as time went on, the staff came to like and respect the clintons
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but initially it was somewhat of a difficult experience. one other quick point about this, president obama, when he came into office, of course, wasn't accustomed to having servants and household staff either and a number of the household staff, the african-american staff, stayed on simply beyond retirement simply because they always wanted to work for an african-american president and never thought it would happen in their lifetimes and it's some moving stories i tell in the book how people stayed on and how a lot of the older household staff which saw the president's daughters malia and sasha like they would almost see their own grandchildren and there was a tremendous bond right from the beginning with the household staff which president obama talked about, too. >> host: you wrote about one particular woman who passed -- it was a woman or man who, you know, made their transition stayed on for a little while and became ill and malia and sasha sent a car and michelle obama
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attended the funeral. it was very moving. >> guest: that didn't happen too long after the president took over but it was an immediate bonding and this gentleman who had worked in the household staff took an immediate liking to sasha and malia and he was french and he would try to teach them french, the language. almost like a grandparent. everything they did was wonderful and everything -- >> host: that was a really cool -- >> guest: it was really wonderful. and the daughters were very upset when he passed away. but it's just a case of how the household staff can become so attached to a president and this case of the whole notion of the african-american staff and the first african-american president is so much more intense. >> host: let's go back to george w. bush and the household staff because again the point i was making was the union aspect that george herbert walker bush talked about. was there any household staff members that george w. bush was close to?
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>> guest: i didn't find any particular staff members, no. but the staff that he knew when his dad was president, as you say, it was almost like a sort of a little reunion with the bush family when -- after the clinton period of bush the son came back and, of course, then the father would come back for a visit so that would enhance this whole notion to the bush family knows the household staff and the household staff like the bushes in some ways because so predictable. that's very important to have consideration for the household staff. some presidents were late. some presidents were -- like lyndon johnson say well, i'm going to have 50 people for dinner in two hours, take care of it. the bushes really were much more willing to give people notice and understand when some things couldn't be done because it was asking too much. and they also were careful in trying to let the staff take time off during holidays so they didn't travel. president reagan actually did that too. felt the staff, secret service
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and household staff, you know -- when christmastime came around they should stay close to home so they tried not to -- the reagans and the bushes tried not to stay away too long because it would be a burden on the staff. it's an interesting inside store it was a consideration more than anything else. >> host: is there anything partisan we can take away. you mentioned the reagans, the bushes as opposed to let's say the clintons? >> guest: well, i think it's more -- being accustomed to dealing with household staff is one thing. the other is the -- this idea of not making decisions based upon race. some of the people -- the african-americans who served in the white house were reluctant to be pigeon holed as african-americans because they felt that they didn't want to just have that as their only portfolio. that was the case with one of president eisenhower's advisors, frederick murrow. >> host: yes. >> guest: who felt that even though he was the only african-american on the white house staff, he didn't feel like
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he would -- he wanted to give advice to the president on racial issues and, of course, at that time president eisenhower sent troops into the south and so on to desegregate schools and enforce the supreme court orders, but it was a self-limiting factor there because the feeling was even though perhaps president eisenhower could have been benefited an insight from an african-american advisor, the advisor felt like he didn't want to just be dealing with only those issues. in the end, he sort of was marginalized in just about everything, though. that's the unfortunate outcome of that. >> host: that particular staffer was a gentleman who had difficulty finding staff of his own. >> guest: yes. >> host: he came as a professional, as a policy advisor. none of the white women wanted to work with him. >> guest: when he was trying to bring a secretary and a clerical staff, there was a pool of women who served those roles and none of them wanted to work for the african-american official. in the end, a couple of the women did, but it was a great
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difficulty and another sad part of that story he had very great difficulty finding a place to live in washington, which is basically segregated at the time. he felt he couldn't get, you know, transportation and taxis and so on and this is an advisor to the president of the united states. now, other presidents, for instance, lyndon johnson -- when that kind of treatment happened to their staff and they heard about it, they would get any angry. lyndon johnson would get so angry sometimes that even his own staff would -- the african-american staff included would say i can't work for this guy anymore. he's out of control. but when he felt it was sort of something that reflected on him, he had, for instance, a cook from texas named jeffra wright who was treated very badly when she made the trip to washington from texas and johnson took that personally and he felt so many other things with him, it was all about him.
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[laughter] >> guest: and he felt, well, if this is the way people treat the cook to the vice president of the united states, that's just wrong. and so -- but some people feel that kind of experience and the experience he saw with some of his other african-american staff deepened his commitment to the civil rights issues. that's a small portion of that story, though. >> host: now, richard nixon, we've not talked about him at all. interesting figure. you've got the picture in your book, the infamous picture of sammy davis, jr., giving him a hug for which he got basically blasted among african-americans. talk a bit about nixon and his racial sensitivities and insensitivities. >> guest: if you look at some of the -- the tapes that are coming out, he had terrible insensitivity. he made terrible racist remarks, remarks anti-semitic remarks privately and so he never -- could quite escape the past he had of insensitivity on racial
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issues. one of the big things on policy that nixon could never escape and historians remark on to this day is the southern strategy that he developed. this idea -- during his earlier career he was not thought of as a particularly hostile person to racial progress. in the 1960 election he got a substantial portion of the african-american vote as republicans had gotten going back to the lincoln experience. >> host: yes. >> guest: but when he got to running in '68, he developed a southern strategy which is essentially designed to pit people against each other on racial grounds so he could carry the white vote in the south and the white vote in many of the northern states. this he could never get past in a lot of his dealings with the african-american community. he was widely reviled in the african-american community for this. some of his policies on segregation and so on were also
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widely criticized. personally, he really didn't have any serious african-american advisors. in the executive order that satisfied dollars for minority businesses to compete for. >> guest: right. >> host: how do you reconcile --
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>> guest: that's a very good point. there's so many other things with nixon. there's all kinds of contradictions there. i mean, you know, he set up the environmental protection agency. and he's not thought of as a particularly environmentally sensitive president. in china, he's a hard-liner in some ways on war issues. vietnam, another issue where he's had a very mixed record. but i think the problem he had in the context of the book and this discussion on presidents on race and african-americans is that he couldn't be relied on to stay with a principle or a conviction if the politics told him to do something else. that was the perception and that's the way a lot of people think of nixon, of course, his nickname was tricky dick. it wasn't that he did everything wrong. it's just that he couldn't be relied on to do what was right in the crunch if politics dictated something else. that's the way i look at it. >> host: much of your book really does deal with the inside of the white house and some still with the outside beginning
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with johnson. we began to see african-american cabinet members. >> guest: yes. >> host: obama has clinton and 15% respectfully. >> guest: right. >> host: if you put your predictors hat on looking ahead, will that now be the bar for presidents in terms of cabinet members? >> guest: well, not necessarily. but i think, you know, you obama hasn't named a higher number of african-americans of president clinton is but it's higher. but it's not that much higher. and -- but one other interesting part of this, just to address your question, we really don't know if those numbers will change very much. certainly that's all depending on how the next campaign is conducted. one thing that the obamas are concerned about is role model. that's one thing we haven't talked about that's in the book.
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the obamas feel they are role models particularly for young african-americans and a lot of what michelle obama, the first lady, has done -- there's a pattern of first ladies on racial issues both positively and negatively but michelle obama has done a lot to expose the country to a wider group of african-americans, not just entertainers and sports figures but poets and literary people and if you look at the kind of events that are happening in the white house, there are great numbers of african-americans that are in the white house and i think the obamas hope that this is seen is very normal for americans. that it's a race neutral administration but the point is they're trying to bring in african-americans to show that this is something that should be considered sort of routine in any white house. and michelle also has the antiobesity initiative which is particularly important in a lot of african-american communities
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and families and hispanic families, so i'd say for this role model idea is something the obamas take very seriously. and according to my reporting, that's one reason obama ran in the first place. >> host: you know, we're winding down and you've talked about so many figures in this book. you mention one person is there someone you wish you knew more about and someone -- >> guest: yeah. well, you know, william slade whom we mentioned earlier, so close to lincoln, an african-american valet who had the president's ear, so what the nature of that relationship was, why president lincoln valued his counsel so closely and slade was so important to lincoln that he was the only -- he was actually brought in by mary todd lincoln to dress the president's body after he was killed, almost like an undertaker would today. and it was an amazingly close
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relationship, but it's not been fully clarified and i hope i've taken some steps towards doing that. he's a very important figure in the history of the white house. i just wish we knew more about him. >> host: you have done such a fabulous job in this book and i was jealous when i looked at your bibliography, oh, he got to read all of those phenomenal books. there's really a great addition to the body of knowledge about presidents and african-americans and something really important for us to take a look at during african-american history month. thank you so very much for this phenomenal work. we're really grateful to have it. >> guest: thank you so very much. >> that was "after words," booktv's signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers, legislators and others familiar with their
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material, "after words" airs at 10:00 on saturday, 12:00 and 9:00 pm on saturday and 12:00 am on monday. you could also watch "after words" online. go to booktv.org and click on "after words" in the booktv series and topics list on the upper right-hand side of the page. on the go, "after words" is available via podcast through itunes and xlm. select which past you would like to download and listen to "after words" while you travel. >> what are you reading this summer? booktv wants to know. >> hi, i'm jane blair and i'm the author of hesitation kills, a female marine officer's combat experience in iraq and this summer i'm reading verniece arm breakthrough and i'm reading jame gleek the inspiration and i'm reading outliers by malcolm
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gladwell and the cosmic war. >> visit booktv.org to see this and other summer reading lists. ♪ >> coming up next, booktv presents "after words" an hour-long program where we invite guest hosts to interview authors. this week global intelligence expert george friedman discusses his new book the next decade. in it the professor calls the u.s. an imperialist power that will be forced to reduce its dominance. the author of the next 100 years predicts that china and turkey will challenge the remaining superpower in the coming decade in ways the government may not currently anticipate. he talks with the executive editor of foreign policy magazine susan glasser. ♪ >> george, thank you so much for joining us today.
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i'm thrilled to have the chance to talk to you in some depth about your new book, the next decade. i see that it represents a little bit of what's the right word, nailing of the frame of ambition in your last book on the next 100 years so you've now taken on perhaps a slightly more manageable next 10 years or perhaps that's actually more -- the next 10 years and i think we can talk about that a little bit in the next hour and some of your very counterintuitive views, i think, about what direction you see the world headed and in particular the u.s. encounters with that world, whether it's on israel or china and your view of its rise or russia. i think you have some interesting things to say that are not exactly what you're going to pick up from reading the papers every day. so let's go ahead and jump right in to that conversation. the next 10 years, what are the three most surprising take-aways that you are offering people in
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this book? >> guest: well, i think first that the war on terror has been overdone. i'm not saying the terrorism is a profound danger but as a monochromatic structure of foreign policy. it's simply unsustainable. there are too many other things happening in the world. the second, i suppose, is the theme that we've been hearing a long time, that china has profound economic problems at this point. it's grown magnificently in 30 years. it will continue to grow. but it's going to go through an adjustment. but i suppose the most important thing that i'm arguing is that the next 10 years is really about the relationship between what i call empire and republic. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: between the vast global power of the united states. the difficulty in managing that and retaining forms of government. eisenhower talked about the military industrial complex. i'm going to beyond that. i'm sayin

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Book TV After Words
CSPAN July 4, 2011 1:00pm-2:00pm EDT

Kenneth Walsh Education. (2011) Kenneth Walsh ('Family of Freedom Presidents and...')

TOPIC FREQUENCY Washington 10, Johnson 8, Elizabeth Kekly 8, Mary Todd Lincoln 7, Bush 7, United States 6, William Slade 5, Clinton 5, Lyndon Johnson 4, Eisenhower 4, China 4, Harry Truman 4, George W. Bush 3, Us 3, Sasha 3, Michelle Obama 3, Adam Clayton Powell 3, Iraq 2, Crawford 2, Virginia 2
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